Women's International Human Rights Law: The Way Forward
Rebecca J. Cook
International human rights law has not yet been applied effectively to redress the disadvantages and injustices experienced by women by reason only of their being women. In this sense, respect for human rights fails to be "universal." The reasons for this general failure to enforce women's human rights are complex and vary from country to country. They include lack of understanding of the systemic nature of the subordination of women, failure to recognize the need to characterize the subordination of women as a human rights violation, and lack of state practice to condemn discrimination against women. Moreover, there has been an unwillingness by traditional human rights groups to focus on violations of women's rights, and a lack of understanding by women's groups of the potential of international human rights law to vindicate women's rights.
This chapter reports a consultation of lawyers from Africa, the Americas, Asia, Australia, and Europe held at the Faculty of Law, University of Toronto, in August 1992. The participants brought legal theory and practice to bear on the relationship between international human rights and women's rights in order to develop legal strategies to promote and protect women's international human rights. This chapter is a report of that consultation, but by no means the report. There are as many reports as participants, but the real impact of the event will appear only when the findings of the consultation are brought to bear on the prevention, investigation, and punishment of violations of women's human rights.
The intention is to offer some idea of the multiple perspectives that emerged on the consultation themes: